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Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Posts Tagged: authors blogging

No, this is not Kristen having a breakdown. She’s on a boat having fun. This is Cait, talking about why I hate blogging as much as I hate downward-facing dog in yoga.

So, if I hate blogging, why do I do it? What’s more, why do I do it to Kristen’s exacting standards? Well, partly because I’m afraid of her. But, mostly, I blog because she is right about blogging in so many ways. It’s really not fair that she’s always right about this sort of stuff.

Yet, for something that seems so instinctive and intrinsically simple (“Writers write, ergo blogging”), why do we have so much trouble with it? Why does it spike my anxiety, trigger my perfectionist paranoia, and send me in the direction of scrubbing the toilet as a preferable way to spend my time?

I have spent a lot of time pondering this (probably time I should have spent drafting blogs). In fact, I have spent most of this week struggling with this post.

The first thing I had to do is come up with was a solid list of why I hate blogging (again, time that could have been spent writing). After thoroughly psyching myself out, I went back through all Kristen’s reasons that blogging makes sense (reinforcing the soul-eating guilt I feel at having wasted all that time not writing a post).

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Finally, I remembered the corollary to Kristen’s blogging rule…but I’m gonna be mean and force you to read to the end to find out what that is. <insert moderately evil laugh here>

Blogging vs. just about anything else

I could do a whole post about all the reasons I hate blogging, but Kristen would probably jump off that cruise ship, swim all the way back up the Atlantic coast, dodge customs in Boston, and break down my door just to slap me upside the head about positivity. Because she loves me.

But, the truth is, I am more at home using negativity as a motivator and dwelling in the blessed realms of snark, cynicism, and dark things. That’s just the Slytherin in me, I guess. The challenge is finding a way to use my negativity about blogging to motivate myself in a positive way. And, I’m going to stop right there, because I’m starting to sound all self-helpy, and I can’t stand 99% of that ish.

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So, let’s just dive into the top three reasons I hate blogging, shall we?

Supersizing the topic

I come from an academic background. In a parallel dimension, I am a professor of history, still using the Red Pen of Wrath…just on my students instead. Academic writing habits are hard to break when it comes to blogging, even though some do come in handy.

One of the cardinal sins of academic writing is tackling a topic that is too broad or too narrow for the projected length of the paper.

I mean, sure, we can describe the decline and fall of the Roman empire in a three page, double-spaced, 12pt font paper (I’m old school page-count and print-out, before word-counts and emailed/uploaded papers became the norm). But, those three pages are going to be uselessly generic, not contributing anything to increasing our understanding of Roman history or helping develop our ability to think and analyze critically.

On the other hand, focus on TOO granular a subject, and well…it ends up being more of an anecdote or footnote. Probably interesting, but again, unlikely to contribute anything to the greater understanding or improve our critical thinking skills.

Blogging is like that for me.

I want what I write to be informative, useful, and accessible. But, writing a blog on “How to write historical fiction” isn’t going to help anyone. Writing a blog on “Understanding currency, income, and prices in historical fiction” (shout if you want me to write something like that) is probably a lot more useful AND interesting AND better written.

I constantly feel like Goldilocks, trying to find the right-sized topic that will live up to my probably-obsessively-over-fastidious standards.

Yoast is killing our brain cells

You know that little thing called SEO? Yeah, worst thing that has ever happened to the written word. And, I’m saying that even in comparison to text-speak and adding words like ‘ginormous’ to the dictionary. If SEO is pure evil, then Yoast is its right hand.

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Yoast is a website plugin that scores your posts and pages on readability and SEO strength. It’s unfortunate, but if we want our blog posts to have a chance at traction, we have to follow the rules it sets out. What are those rules?

First, we have to set a keyword. Fine. Like a gateway drug, that’s not so bad. But then, Yoast tells us how often we should be using that word (*side-eye at density score*), and where that word should come in titles and first paragraphs. If it stopped that, I’d grit my teeth and accept that algorithms are gonna do what algorithms are gonna do.

But then, Yoast starts picking at other things, like breaking up the text every 300 words with a sub-heading. Like making sure we don’t repeat the way we start a sentence. Like making sure less than 25% of our sentences have more than 20 words (and I know I purposely triggered the repetitive-sentence-start thing, but Yoast doesn’t really understand context or dramatic intent *flounces off*). Paragraphs can’t be too long, either – oops, gotta cut this one short!

Yoast is dumbing down blogging. By trying to make blogs easier to read, Yoast is encouraging a growing laziness in blog readers. What happens to a society when we can no longer focus past three sentences at a time in order to process a complex thought or multiple pieces of evidence to support an argument? I’ll tell you what happens: we get bad movie sequels, clickbait, and double-very-bad politics.

Paging Mr. Orwell, your 1984 is ready.

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I resent being forced to ‘dumb down’ my writing just so a brainless algorithm has an easier time of it. I write for people, not Google. Oh, wait. I use Yoast, so I guess I’m writing for Google. But, consider this another major reason why I hate blogging.

Perfectionism

This actually isn’t quite as related to what Kristen was talking about in this post. I’m talking about my inner intellectual demon that MUST BE RIGHT AT ALL TIMES. If a blog post is a form of educational argument, then dammit, I’m gonna WIN!

I’m not kidding. I approach each topic – especially anything that involves factual research – with a goal of creating an UNASSAILABLE argument. I want my post to be the Fort Knox of logic. My brain goes into hyper-passive-aggressive-nerd mode, playing Kasparov-esque chess with each point I write.

It’s exhausting.

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I don’t mind admitting when I don’t know something. But, I feel soul-crushing humiliation when someone points out a stupid mistake or an obvious (or not-so-obvious) flaw in my argument. Maybe…just maybe I’m over-reacting, and I should get some therapy about it. Or, maybe, that drive to be as certain and correct in opinion and facts is what helps make my writing and teaching reliable and useful.

Still, the fact that I’ve got some subconscious id and ego stuff going on with perfectionism makes blogging an emotionally and intellectually draining task.

Le sigh…why Kristen is right about blogging

There are a lot of reasons Kristen is right about blogging being the best, most effective way for writers to market themselves. She is also right about Twitter, Facebook, and other social media, but we’re just going to focus on blogging for the moment.

It all comes down to the three C’s: classic, cost-effective, and control. This is a trifecta that is pretty much the holy grail goal of all marketing. When I used to work in advertising, we wanted our ads to be memorable over the long-term, hit the target audience without breaking the bank, and look/feel/sound exactly as planned.

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The number of times Kristen has said this…

While the landscape might have changed from analog to digital, the principles and goals remain the same. Classic. Cost-effective. Control.

Classic: why blogging is the Talbots of author marketing

Warning: extended metaphor ahead. May cause eye strain from over-rolling of eyes.

Think of getting ready for a job interview. We have our resume, portfolio, references, and talking points at hand. The job description is a great match for our skills, and we know we’ll kick butt at it. We just have to wow them at the interview, so we inhale all the caffeine we can handle without inducing tachycardia, pop a couple of breath mints, and put on our interview suit.

The classic interview suit.

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Maybe we stay simple and true with traditional accessories (pearls for ladies, cufflinks for gents). Or, maybe we add a dash of flair with a daringly patterned shirt or chunky piece of jewelry we picked up at a vintage sale. It’s a small piece of individualism, a little personal pleasure, and it only adds to the solid impression a classic suit makes.

A blog is like the classic interview suit. It never goes out of style. It is the best and strongest way we have of presenting our brand to readers. It’s the one wardrobe piece we never throw out because its quality was designed to endure. We can easily update and refresh the look with accessories, apps, widgets, and chunky vintage jewelry (um, yeah, getting all the metaphor stuff mixed up, I know).

Besides, if we want to be remembered as a writer, then the best and most enduring pitch we can make is…well… our writing.

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Social media outlets like Snapchat, Instagram, What’s App, etc. are all well and good, but they are the Forever 21 funky accessory of marketing. They are fun, get attention, but may also tarnish and/or break fairly quickly. Can you say Vine? (So 2015!)

Just think about it…is anyone really ever going to go back through all our Snapchats, Tweets, or Instagram posts two years from now? But, as an admin on this site, I can tell you that there are blogs that Kristen has written that are four and five years old that are still top trackers and getting comments on a daily basis.

Now, that’s some classic-interview-suit power.

Cost-effective: how blogging can keep us from sin

Marketing is expensive. It costs us time and money – resources most of us are chronically short on. Marketing is also seductive. Nothing is as exciting as seeing swag with our name on it, or an ad for our book pop up on Facebook, or getting that shiny new book trailer. So, we try to find that balance between price and quality. Fun times.

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And yes, if we set up our own domain and do stuff right with backup, security, and all that jazz, it will cost us a couple hundred dollars to get started. Depending on what plans we choose, there is also the yearly renewal fees. Still, that yearly cost pretty much comes down to the equivalent of three or four impulse purchases at Target. (Don’t worry, I’m not going to continue the clothing metaphor.)

The keys to leveraging a website (assuming we have decent content people want) are consistency and distribution. Consistency is a free feature that comes with wrangling our brains into some semblance of discipline. Distribution? Well, that’s what Jetpack is for. Again, it’s free.

Even with graphics, there is a lot we can do with free ‘photo editor’ apps. Personally, I pay $10 a month for a subscription to a professional-level app, but that’s because I do a LOT more than just blog graphics. And, I only started that subscription last year. Before that, I made do with free for about four years.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made some COSTLY mistakes. Like cringe-inducing-dear-God-if-You-loved-me-You-would-have-stopped-me-because-that-was-a-really-expensive-lesson mistakes. The only marketing tool I keep coming back to in the end is…you guessed it: my website (and occasionally Kristen’s because she forgets to lock the door).

Control: blogging vs. paranoia

Wanna hear a scary story? A romance author on Facebook builds an author page that gets 15,000 followers. She posts a picture for fun. The next time she logs into Facebook, her page is gone. DUN DUN DUUUUUUUUUUUN!

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No, it wasn’t me. But, it has been many authors I’ve known. It’s a ‘cross-cultural’ phenomenon – there are versions in Instagramland, YouTubia, and Twitterburg.

Don’t forget, we also have to deal with ever-changing terms of use, hackers, and the final, fatal OMG-twitfacetogramchat-just-went-out-of-business! Want an example?

Dogster.

Don’t laugh. It was actually a great site for finding pet info. The fact that it was MySpace for pets is a whole other level of psychosis. Still, I met other Basenji owners through their forums, and they have become some of my closest, dearest friends. Thank goodness we had all exchanged contact info and signed up for Facebook before Dogster announced they were shutting down.

Think of MySpace…and Tila Tequila. Her original claim to fame was getting to a million followers on MySpace without much else (i.e. talent, content, etc.) to back it up. So…how’s that workin’ for ya, Tila?

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A website of our own never goes away. Our blog content is subject to our rules. Our website is our castle, and we can defend against trolls and hackers with laser precision. Oh, and we can also build community through interacting with commenters, adding chat and forums, etc.

Remember, the flip-side of paranoia is control-freak! 🙂

Wait…that didn’t come out right…

The thing we usually forget Kristen said about blogging

Here’s the promised payoff from my little intro tease. Yes, we need to blog…but we also have to find a way to ENJOY it.

Somehow, I tend to forget that.

I haven’t entirely solved my blogging problems, and that’s probably partly because I’m still figuring out how to TRULY enjoy it. There are moments when I giggle to myself as I write something that is (at least I think) funny. Picking out the memes to go in a blog…I love telling people that it is legit part of my job. I bask in the glow of the final product and clicking ‘Publish.’

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But…there’s still the anxiety, the dread, the worry I’m not providing good enough content or that I’ve gotten something wrong. It doesn’t take much to spiral me into a perfect orgy of procrastination…er…research.

However, I am experimenting, trying to figure out what I can do to both get better ABOUT blogging regularly and ENJOY blogging regularly. I’ve found I really enjoy making videos, and I’m about to dip my toe into podcasting (which I think is really spoken-word blogging). While the file sizes mean I wont’ be ‘hosting’ the videos and podcasts on my website, I will be centralizing all the information about them there.

I also have been sharing my love of creating reading ‘syllabi.’ But, being a snotty little French historian, I have to call them something pretentious like a ‘Catalogue Raisonné.’ It turns out I have a lot of fun going through my personal library to pick and choose what I put into the list. It also became something I could turn into another page for my website.

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(And by the way, while I do think you’d enjoy those pages, putting external links into a blog post is another Yoast requirement. *shakes tiny fist*)

All in all, I’m still on the journey, but I’m determined to get there. If you happen to be on the same road, maybe we can travel together?

Let me hear it!

Why do you love/hate blogging? What are your tips for becoming a happy, successful blogger? Share the love…or hate, LOL.

Class tonight!

URBAN FANTASY: SALT CIRCLE NOT INCLUDED

PARANORMAL, URBAN FANTASY, GHOSTS, VAMPIRES, WRITINGInstructor: Cait Reynolds
Price: $55.00 USD
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: Friday, October 19, 2018. 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. EST

REGISTER HERE!

Be honest. How many voodoo dolls have you mutilated in your quest to become the next Laurell K. Hamilton or Sherrilyn Kenyon?

  • 0-9: You’re probably too virtuous to ever get published.
  • 10-19: Equivalent of the New Year’s resolution of voodoo…fizzles in week 2.
  • 20-29: You’ve won NaNoWriMo once or twice and wear lucky writing socks.
  • 30+: Now, we’re talking.

In all seriousness, urban fantasy has emerged as one of the strongest and most competitive categories in publishing, building on the momentum of legends like Anne Rice and expanding to embrace all kinds of sub-genres such as YA, satire, and romance.

But for all its badass convention-breaking, urban fantasy also a genre boobytrapped with the worst pitfalls of all the genres it borrows from.

If we’re not overdoing the Mickey Spillane-esque hard-boiled grit, we’re confusing which supernatural creature has which power. Or, we’re creating characters that are so wrapped up in their love lives with <insert hot supernatural guys here>, they almost miss the climactic battle between good and evil happening a couple blocks over.

Fear not! Strap on your vampire-hunting gear, grab your wolfsbane gris-gris, and don’t forget to bring your sarcastic sidekick to this class where I will help you navigate the mean streets and treacherous back alleys of urban fantasy!

A recording of this class is also included with purchase.

SEE YOU TONIGHT!!!

 

 

Original image courtesy of flowcomm, via Flickr Commons
Original image courtesy of flowcomm, via Flickr Commons

Happy New Year! 2015 is now here and it is up to us what we will do with the time each of us is allotted. We all have heard the saying, “DaVinci had the same 7 days and 24 hours.” I would actually make a different point. Folks like DaVinci, Mozart, Shakespeare actually had LESS time.

There was no electric lighting and pulling all-nighters was a good way to go blind by candlelight. Thus, I’d say the difference is that these artists lived intentionally.

We all want to know the secret to “success.” First of all, I am going to add a caveat. “Success” is a very personal thing. What is “success” for you isn’t “success” for me. Yet, study after study shows that people who write down their goals are far more likely to reach them.

Why?

We have forced our minds to have a Mission Statement and our subconscious will use that to guide us. That is where the cool dreams and great ideas are born. Also, we are far more likely to recognize opportunity when we see it.

Living intentionally is vital because it allows us what I believe is one of the HUGE keys to reaching our dreams—learning to be an OUTLASTER.

Original image courtesy of Flickr Creatinve Commons, courtesy of Ali Samieivafa.
Original image courtesy of Flickr Creatinve Commons, courtesy of Ali Samieivafa.

***I learned this term from minister and speaker Craig Groeschel and it has REALLY helped me.

We can take craft classes, join a gym, type on the WIP, start a blog, but the difference between those who make it and those who don’t is that those who make it KEPT GOING, even if it was just a tiny bit of effort daily.

Business

Actual image of Kristen's Guardian Angel
Actual image of Kristen’s Guardian Angel

I began W.A.N.A. International almost three years ago, and the business setbacks alone have been crushing. It is no easy feat to reinvent publishing and writing classes and conferences as we know them. W.A.N.A. was the first to have a GENUINE global writing conference (with a HUGE thanks to Tech Surgeons and Jay Donovan). We had real classes with NYTBSAs, agents, editors and attendees from all over the globe.

***W.A.N.A. stands for We Are Not Alone, btw.

And, though we enjoyed success, it came with a heavy price. It was one kick in the teeth after another. We were working with brand new technology, trying to schedule a conference that would accommodate everyone from New York to New Zealand. We also had legal battles, turnover, betrayals, LOCUSTS!

THANK GOD I had the great W.A.N.A. instructors by my side simply because they believed in what we are doing.  And we are STILL HERE!

Blogging & Writing

When I started blogging, I was THRILLED to have 40 visits a day. Granted, most were spam bots, but hey! They counted, RIGHT? One of my close writing friends and I were talking about how many people used to blog regularly 5 years ago and almost all of them are no longer blogging.

Blogging is crucial for a brand and selling books. It is the STRONGEST and most resilient form of social media, yet most people give up.

I also have noticed how many people were SO passionate about writing, would do ANYTHING to publish and write full-time. Now? Most are gone. New people filled with the wonder and dreams have taken their place, but how long will they last?

***Refer to What Are the REAL Odds of Being a Successful Author?

Here’s the thing. Starting is easy (okay, “easier”). It is fresh and wonderful and emotional. Starting is CRUCIAL. There might even be all kinds of people to cheer you on.

But how will you fare when the new wears off and those who pledged undying support and loyalty move on to a new shiny because we weren’t an overnight success?

The key to making it in ANYTHING from writing to business to marriage to losing weight is to become an OUTLASTER.

Traits of an Outlaster

Original image via Lucy Downey from Flickr Creative Commons
Original image via Lucy Downey from Flickr Creative Commons

Outlasters have clear and achievable goals.

Notice I didn’t say realistic goals. Reach for the stars and we may hit the moon. BUT, my goal to be a NYTBSA is realistic because I am a writer. If I have a goal to become a high-fashion model? Um, at a fluffy 5’3″ and 40 years old? Uh…NO.

Outlasters write down goals and have CLEAR Mission Statements.

The Mission Statement keeps us focused. We learn where to say yes and where and when to say no.

If my goal is to become a NYTBSA in the next five years, I know it is unwise to volunteer for every church event, school event, and family drama need. It becomes clear that I need to set word count based off MY goals. My word count will be very different if I want to write ONE book a year versus THREE.

Three sayings I kept with me from my days in sales?

Plan your work and work your plan.

Fail to plan and plan to fail.

Coffee is for Closers.

Outlasters understand the power of letting go.

Yes, Outlasters MUST hold on, hold on for LIFE! But to the right things.

Often letting go is more important than holding fast. This can involve letting go of hobbies, hangups and habits or even WIPs that just need to be put to bed. But the toughest? Letting go of people.

The best analogy I can think of for this is climbing Everest. If we want to climb Everest, there are teams of sherpas that guide you to the first base camp. As you go to each higher level, the team gets smaller and this is necessary.

Not everyone in our life is meant for the summit. Some could even get us killed.

I’ve had some SERIOUS issues with this. A writer I spent many years mentoring was caught on-line wholesale plagiarizing, and giving ME credit for his WONDERFUL work. This was a HARD blow to my brand and thank goodness kind people sided with me and realized HIS inexcusable behavior didn’t reflect MY character.

But, my brand was far smaller at the time. What if this happened later, when the damage could have been catastrophic? Sometimes the only thing we can be grateful for amidst the pain is TIMING.

We will mourn people we need to let go of, but often this is a good thing. We WANT the friends who believe in us even when all outside evidence says we are a failure. We never know who our real friends are when life is all kittens and unicorns. We find them (and they reach for us) in the darkness.

Outlasters Know NOTHING is WASTED

2014 was a HORRIBLE, HORRIBLE year. I had to back off everything because we had so many family members die or become critically ill. Right after this past Thanksgiving, both my grandparents (who raised me) were sent to the ICU on the same day. I just got off the phone from that news and received a call five minutes later that my aunt died. This was also after four months of debilitating Shingles.

I’ve done my share of grieving, of feeling badly about what I needed to do, should do, and beating myself up. But that isn’t productive. This past year, I’ve not been the Kristen Lighting the World on Fire and yet? Most of you stayed. New people joined.

This taught me that I not only could be the light for YOU, but that y’all could also be the light for ME.

I learned the value of rest. I backed off and slept (A LOT) to remove myself from the fray and really see where my priorities needed to be. Sometimes we get so caught in the artillery fire of life that we lose our bearings.

But that lost job or lost friend? That sickness or setback might just be a gift in hiding. We choose. What can this terrible event or mistake TEACH us?

Failures can be tombstones of stepping stones. Our choice.

Outlasters WORK 

Screen Shot 2014-03-03 at 9.58.49 AM

Luck is fabulous and would LUV me some luck. But I still believe the harder I work, the luckier I get. This said, working smarter is key. Sure, feel free to handmade all your clothes, but running to Target for new t-shirts might be a better use of time if your goal is to be a pro writer instead of a clothing designer.

There are no shortcuts. We MUST endure. And endurance can be small. It can mean we are so ill we can’t see straight, but we post a couple things on Facebook or ask a friend to guest blog…then go back to sleep. It is the small deposits and investments that accumulate over time.

But we write that book, remove that debt, lose that weight little by little. That’s what endures. Fad diets and quick fixes don’t change our character. Just like eating well and exercise should be a lifestyle, being a writer is a WHOLE new way of living. It isn’t a hobby or a thing or our little fun…it is who we ARE. Writers WRITE.

Outlasters Understand the Long-Tail

If we look at life day by day we will get discouraged. It’s kind of like going back to the gym and then getting on the scale every hour to see what’s changed. Formula for a breakdown. Outlasters just keep writing, keep failing, keep learning, keep trying and they do it over and over and over and over.

Outlasters CANNOT Succeed Alone

Part of why I created the W.A.N.A. Community is that we are who we hang around. Show me your closest friends and I’ll show you your future. We need a team, especially in The Digital Age. There is simply too much to learn or know.

Too many predators who see dollar signs over the newbie writer’s head. Conversely, there are a LOT of great people in the industry and your connections can save you time and guide you.

Find positive, professional, driven people and you WILL come up higher. Psychic vampires, whiners and complainers need to GO. Take inventory and seek out those you admire. Study them. Listen and learn from them. This is a tough road, but no one ever said we had to do it alone.

We all fall, bump our noses and bloody our knees. That is GOOD. Keep pressing. You got this 😉 .

So what are your plans for the New Year? Are you working on valuing baby steps? Reframing setbacks? Letting go of bad habits or toxic people? Any tips you might want to offer?

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of JANUARY, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

I will announce December’s winner later in the week when I have had some SLEEP.

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook